The problem with working anytime, any place

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about the age of the cloud worker and the benefits this will deliver to employers. But as with any working revolution, a new era also brings new challenges. And it is vital to address these head-on if you want to future-proof your business.

The issue with working anytime, any place

Today, more people are concerned about the work/life divide than ever before. Findings show that employees now want the ability to access company resources from everywhere, to support flexible working and provide them with a better work/life balance.

But, the one thing that is often misunderstood when talking about the way we work today is that for many people, it’s not really about ‘balance’, it’s about ‘integration’.

Let’s face it, when we talk about balance we envisage time spent at work, and time spent switched off from emails etc. A work-life balance suggests clear boundaries between the two. But in reality, more and more employees are “always-on”, and this blending of personal and professional life can lead to higher levels of stress.

Is the technology at fault?

To meet the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce, employers are turning to the cloud. And cloud technology has revolutionised the way we do things; with the ability to access everything we need, from anywhere, on any internet-enabled device.

So, is this tech the problem?

Well, no. And as the old saying goes “a bad workman blames his tools”.

The reason why some companies are struggling to meet their employees’ need for separation between “work” and “life” is because of a lack of understanding about what people need to be efficient and productive.

In reality, allowing employees to work remotely can have a hugely positive impact on employee engagement. And improve their work-life balance. But new technology requires a new mindset.

The problem with presenteeism

Presenteeism describes the practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required. And, for remote workers keen to demonstrate that they are working productively from home it can be a particular problem, with many putting in more extended hours than they would in a traditional office environment.

The problem is, as presenteeism hits record highs in UK organisations, so does workplace stress. Also, while it can be challenging to trust employees to perform where you can’t see them, according to experts, this reliance on “presenteeism is the biggest threat to UK workplace productivity[1]

So, what do you need to create a culture that supports the growing number of cloud workers while maximising productivity?

  • Trust. Engaged staff will instinctively use their time effectively. Working remotely also frees employees from workplace distractions, so they can get through more tasks, in fewer hours, without the need to work longer
  • Communication. Employees need regular contact while they are working remotely. There is no quicker route to staff disengagement than if they feel they are being forgotten about or kept in the dark. Put processes in place to engage with staff directly and regularly. Use conference calls, video conferencing, and face-to-face meetings to keep the lines of communication open
  • Accessible technology. Before switching to a more agile, flexible approach, you must make sure that everyone has instant access to everything they need to do their jobs. So, invest in a cloud-based hosted desktop solution that lets your people access the files and programs they need. No matter where they are
  • Face-to-face time. Make time in the office count. Use it as an opportunity to engage with catch-up meetings, dedicated group brainstorm sessions etc. When employees feel positive after a day in the office, they are more likely to remain engaged while working remotely
  • Well-defined aims and expectations. Mobile working requires a degree of trust. To make sure yours isn’t exploited, put clear goals in place. But be careful to not enforce old working patterns in the process. Rather than thinking about how many hours someone is sat at a desk remotely, focus on quantifiable results. Just because you can work anytime, anyplace, doesn’t mean you should. It’s up to employers to make sure staff feel confident enough to know when they can step away and switch off.

While there are challenges to be faced when it comes to embracing mobile working practices, the rewards – when done right- are undeniable. And the era of the cloud-worker is not going away, so it’s important to be ready if you want to maintain a healthy, happy and productive workforce.

For more information on how we can help get your business ready for the era of the cloud-worker, contact us today for an informal chat.

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[1] Sir Cary Cooper, keynote speech, CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition.